CAPSULE: The tragedy of the loss of her life partner in a lesbian relationship was hard enough on Charlene Strong. Then the hospital would not let Strong see the dying woman because it did not recognize a lesbian relationship as giving Strong the same rights it would give a man. This is the forceful and moving story of Charlene Strong who became a powerful force in getting a bill passed for a statewide Domestic Partnership Registry for Washington. Strong's story is moving and inspiring. The film goes on to give the then current status of marriage equality in various places in the country. Writer/director David Rothmiller generally makes a compelling statement with just a few false moves. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Imagine that you have just gone through a terrible tragedy. Your significant other of nine years has gone from vibrant life to all but the point of death by a flash flood. You had been in the house trying to help her at the moment she drowned. She had been rescued by firemen and partially resuscitated, not successfully, by paramedics. Then she was dying in hospital, again just feet away from you. And in the whole world all you really wanted was to be with her to strengthen her in her last moments which could happen any second. And the hospital tells you that you cannot be with her. The hospital does not recognize any close relationship you had with the dying woman. Members of your loved one's birth family have got to be contacted and they have to give permission. Later when your loved one is dead the funeral parlor tells you that in spite of the fact that you are paying for the funeral you have no right to the ashes of your loved one. They must go to the birth family and then the family can decide if they want to give you the ashes.
This sort of treatment would never happen to you if you and the dying woman were a heterosexual couple. It could happen and did happen to Charlene Strong because at the time the State of Washington did not recognize that a gay couple had a right to be a gay couple. In spite of nine years of deep commitment to Kate Fleming, her partner and lover, and in spite of the couple having been married in Canada, in Washington Charlene Strong had no more rights than if she had been a casual friend of the last day or two. Fortunately, Kate's family did accept the relationship. Fleming did spend her last moments being comforted by Strong.
And after this treatment Strong--true to her name--dedicated herself to fighting for marriage equality and legal protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual families. FOR MY WIFE is mostly dedicated to telling the affecting story of Charlene Strong. Strong goes on to tell the story of her treatment to the Washington State Senate debating SSB 5336, a domestic partner benefits bill. David Rothmiller, who wrote, directed, and edited the film--a first-timer on each--tells the compelling story with few false moves. On is a sort of interlude in which we follow Strong walking the streets of Manhattan to the tune of a folk guitar and a song. In a 60-minute film, those minutes could have been better spent. And he may not have had control of this, but the first minutes of the film, the story of the flood and how Fleming became trapped in the flooding basement, are the most compelling of the film. Later in the film he gives us a scattershot status report on the state of the marriage equality movement. While Charlene's story will be of relevant interest in ten years, the status report will age much more quickly, giving the film a shorter shelf life. Nevertheless at the moment it is highly topical and promises to remain so for the next few years. In most states Charlene could have had the same experience today.
This is a moving account that has us feel the damage done by a lack of marriage equality legislation. It puts a human face on the need for and failure to pass reasonable and decent laws. I rate FOR MY WIFE... a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. FOR MY WIFE... was released on DVD on August 31, 2010. It is available from Amazon.com.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1322918/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper